Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cheesy Competition

One of the great things about Austin is the variety of slightly bizarre and clearly funky happenings that seem to occur on a daily basis. Last weekend, I put on my bravest face and joined the crowd at The 3rd (Usually) Annual Austin Regional Grilled Cheese Invitational. I kid you not.

The day featured rock music directed by a DJ, lots of beer, a Queen (seen in the photo above) and King, and even the requisite couple of dudes selling T-shirts. I was not the oldest nor the youngest (that would be an unusual group), but definitely a generation beyond a majority of the celebrants. And I clearly didn’t have enough tatts or flowers in my hair. But as with many things Austin-like, all ages were welcomed with an openness and a general sense of joy and good will that reminded me of a 60s-style love-in – as long as what you love is grilled cheese.

The setting was the large back yard of the local Moose Lodge. Indeed, if you participated in the raffle, you could even win – as second prize (first prize was half the pot) – a free membership in the Lodge. A restaurant named Chedd’s, part of a Denver-based franchise that specializes in gourmet grilled cheese, gave away fresh-grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato basil soup all afternoon, and Antonelli’s, a local cheese shop, donated the aged Grafton cheddar used in the sandwiches. No one left hungry.

Apparently, these competitions are spreading faster than the mint in my garden. The mother of all grilled cheese competitions, which started in 2003, takes place in Los Angeles, and first prize at the various regional competitions is usually a trip to LA for the showdown. The Austin invitational pulled 31 competitors, in three categories: Missionary (cheese only), Kama Sutra (anything goes, but it must be at least 60% cheese), and Honey Pot (dessert).

The overall winner went by the unlikely name of Charlie Sheen Duh, which I didn’t get exactly – does Charlie Sheen like grilled cheese? While I couldn’t quite understand all the ingredients – and the chef was particularly cryptic in his description – the sandwich came on King’s Hawaiian rolls, and featured mozzarella and honey with some sort of cream sauce.

For me, the day was an eye-opener: I’d never imagined there could be so many ways to tweak a grilled cheese sandwich. But I am now intrigued, and may put forth some effort toward next year’s competition.

So what’s in your favorite grilled cheese?


  1. grilled swiss on rye w tomato and bacon. my standard nyc deli order, back in the day. if they didnt get it right, i didnt return. but this competition sounds like fun!

  2. When I was growing up, there was a hangout near my high school that made the BEST grilled cheeses. The "Keen Freeze" grilled cheese had mayo and lettuce and tomato on it! Plain old american cheese. Now my fav is grilled cheddar with tomato. Hold the mayo.

    Great post!

  3. smoked gouda, sliced green apple and sweet honey mustard grilled on whole wheat bread, is my favorite. I am a writer who loves to cook (the other way around, too!) Love your blog. - Maeve

  4. Wow -- gouda, apple, and honey mustard sounds right up my alley. I'll have to try it.